Health precincts in regional Australia: where are the hotspots?

  • Cloncurry hospital

Photo: Millie Clery

The health care sector plays a central role in building and sustaining regional Australia. The health sector is a significant industry in our regions, in some places accounting for more than 15 per cent of jobs. These jobs are a mix of public and private jobs and are both high and low skilled. Additionally, the health sector creates opportunities in a range of non-health care occupations such as cooks, cleaners and office managers. A well-established and vibrant health care sector can play a key role in the economic development of Australia’s regions.

Jobs in the health care sector are increasing faster than any other sector in Australia. These jobs are increasing at a faster rate in regional Australia than in metropolitan areas. The industry will be the largest and fastest growing industry by 2023 and will bring more than 85,000 new jobs to regional Australia. Despite being a major employer and an increasingly integral component of many regional livelihoods, the health sector is rarely seen in this light - as a significant driver of economic growth.

The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) is conducting research which places an economic lens over the health care sector. First, RAI is finding regional Australia’s health care hotspots. These are places where there is a higher than average proportion of jobs in the health care sector. We are then digging down into some of these hotspots to have a closer look at the make-up of their health care sector. A close look at the kinds of jobs in these places and the proximity of health care businesses to each other will tell us about how well-functioning diverse health care sectors look and work in places of different sizes.

RAI researchers will then look to see if health precincts have been built in any of our identified health sector hotspots. A health precinct is a means to share facilities and administration costs, and to support and encourage the private sector to locate in regional towns and cities. Precincts contribute to an increase in diversity of service offerings in regional communities and our initial consultations suggest that several places in regional Australia are strategically building them. Health hotspot towns that have used a precinct approach may be regional cities with proximity to universities and major hospitals, but they are also being built in connected lifestyle regions and small towns in our heartland regions.

This research will locate these places and describe the process of building their health precincts. We are looking for health precincts in towns of different sizes and socio-economic contexts and will ask about the motivation and history of the approach, key challenges and the economic, social and health benefits that have resulted.   

This information will result in a series of best practice case studies that can be used by regions that are considering implementing a strategic collaborative approach to building successful health care industries in places of different sizes. These lessons can point us towards new ways to understand the relationship between collaborative business support, workforce development, health outcomes and liveability.

If your town or region has built a health precinct – whether a small facility housing a few small businesses – or a larger precinct involving hospitals and universities – we’d love to hear from you; contact with Dr Angela Lehmann [email protected]


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